14 Nov 2012

Tough Varnish - Secure cloud caching for safe & speedy sites

This week we've been helping a client with some Varnish caching. Aside from being a fun project it was a welcome reminder of how easy webserver security can be. Through simple implementation of a remote Varnish cache box not only can your website become lightning fast, it can also become super secure and a breeze to re-instate should the worst happen.
Let's take a look at a basic remote Varnish cache setup on AWS EC2 and run through the simple whys and hows.

23 Oct 2012

To be sure - How to avoid AWS US-East 1 downtime

Another AWS EBS outage yesterday evening (UK time), and as before it was flaky old US-East 1. Only Zone C this time, although I experienced a degree of latency whilst helping a client re-launch his webserver in Zone A (praise be once more for AutoSnappy). I'm continaully surprised by the amount of 'cloud aware' businesses who get caught out, however, bad platform design aside, on checking outage history there's an easy option to limit the damage, even if you're running a single instance (and don't use Scalr or haven't designed for for zone redundancy).

14 Sep 2012

Why Apple has its iSight on the compact camera sector

The iPhone 5 launch was quite an exciting affair (iCloud problems aside), so-so for the iPhone itself which got the larger screen and spec bump along with a lighter and slightly redesigned body (all expected upgrades). What made it for me was the new iPod Touch, specifically the inclusion of a decent camera and resulting potential this opens up for the device as a real option for photography. The impact this could have on the compact camera sector is something I don't think many (apart from Apple themselves) have fully realised.

10 Sep 2012

Who needs a DVD drive anyway?

I was mildly surprised to discover Apple have ceased manufacture of the classic 17" MacBook Pro. It's a logical move I suppose what with their 2012 all singing all dancing 'Retina' but for someone like me who doubles up their laptop as a TV it's not completely about resolution, physical screen size is still relevant. 
Mine's a mid-2009 2.8GHZ Core2 Duo and although the lure of an i7 is out there I've no working need for all that processing power, I did fancy a bit of an upgrade though, you know, as you do.

9 Sep 2012

Xubuntu and the 11z - Lightweight and Low Voltage

It was time to upgrade my 2nd laptop (netbook). The Dell Mini 9 was (is) a superb little unit for 'here & there' mobile work and I can't praise it enough, however I needed something more suited to all day working and my 17" MacBook is a brick to lug about, it was also time to dump the daily Hackintosh in favour of a Linux desktop. Other tick boxes included a nicer keyboard, better screen & res (@11" with 1366 x 768) and (if possible) better battery life, all with similar portability as offered by the Mini 9. Possible? Yep, for sure, enter the Dell 11z.

8 Aug 2012

iCal for iCloud in OSX10.6 Snow Leopard

I run a 17" MacBook Pro and a Dell Mini 9 'Hackintosh' (for when the 17" is feeling heavy or I'm planning more than work when out for the day). The 17" is great and now running Mountain Lion 10.8 with complete iCloud sync, the little Dell however is stuck on 10.6.6 and when MobileMe was taken offline iCal and Address Book sync vanished with it. Mail is accommodated but calendar and contacts aren't, and although I'd love an 11" MacBook Air it's not going to happen. So, in this post we'll look at a workaround to sync iCal from iCloud to OS10.6.

Save your AWS webface when Godzilla strikes

The last AWS US-East outage ruffled a few feathers and wasn't fun for those who experienced downtime, however as before there's a lesson to be learnt and it goes to show that even the most resilient systems can fail and contributory strings of events, no matter how disjointed, can and do happen.
The lesson? Simple, design for redundancy (or have contingency measures in place for a quick restore). Let's take a look at a few of the options available for AWS resilience and restore that could help you save face should Godzilla strike.

14 Jul 2012

ZPanelX AMI build for AWS EC2

I'm a huge ZPanel advocate. Cirronix use ZPv6 ourselves and include it as our supported hosting server of choice for clients, as such it was quite exciting to find time to evaluate the latest release - ZPanelX. The initial installation instructions were quite lengthy so I'd held off until an official script was released for Ubuntu 12.04LTS. According to the ZPanel team the new version is a complete rewrite with several new features and a slicker codebase, so, let's take a look, see how easily it drops on to an AWS EC2 instance and evaluate what's needed for AMI replication.

16 Jun 2012

Kenseimedia - Video hosting for busy agencies

Kenseimedia are one of Cirronix favourite clients. They are a 'best of breed' cloud focused PaaS provider offering a comprehensive media platform for agencies and developers, running completely from the scalable resilience of Amazon Web Services™. AWS is a perfect choice for Kensei. A balanced blend of secure EC2s covering website, application and media upload plus encoding to S3 enables them to dynamically scale their platform with client content delivered to global edge locations via the Cloudfront™ CDN.

25 May 2012

Cloud cover from Yorkshire to the EU

The growth of cloud computing in recent years has brought about huge change in the way IT resources are delivered. Virtual and cloud systems are the logical option for todays dynamic platforms and there are an increasing array of cloud specialists to choose from.
Cirronix are a UK cloud consultancy operating out of Leeds, West Yorkshire. Services cover cloud support, design, deployment and integration with focus for Amazon Web Services and related Linux virtual technologies.

13 May 2012

Out with the old - Why 10mb is no longer an issue for Sparrow

I've been a fan of Sparrow since it first came out, I find it suits my 'personal' mail to a tee. I could run both business and personal accounts in PostBox (my main client) but I like to keep a distinction between work and play and find the 'Twitter-esque' GUI pleasantly suited to my .Mac account.
The latest version (1.5) is the slickest yet and offers really cool options for large file transfer, something so simple you'd wonder why nobody has joined up the dots before. Let's take a look.

12 May 2012

Filling the slot - Mini 9 SDHC storage options

Yet another post about my Dell Mini 9, I think I'm obsessed. This time, storage.
The internal 16GB SSD has about 8.5GB free with a sparse OSX install plus a few apps, which is OK but it's always good to have some room in the bag and although I've only about 4GB of DropBox data I didn't want to dump it all on the SSD, or pay for an upgrade. So, as the Mini 9 has an integral card slot I thought I'd use that instead, as it's only for data storage there was no real need for high performance R/W, it's not like the operating system is going to boot from it.

10 May 2012

Quick and easy SQL on RDS from AWS

AWS this week released RDS for Microsoft SQL, completing the suite by adding to existing offerings for MySQL and Oracle. With a concurrent .NET/IIS upgrade for Elastic Beanstalk™ you now have options for resilient application scaling across all platforms without the added overhead of instance management, and, as an introductory offer they're offering a free 1 year tier for Micro DB instances with up to 20GB of storage. Let's take a look at the simple launch process, select some backup and maintenance options and set authorisations for connectivity.

8 May 2012

Spaces - The Final Frontier

Netbooks are perceived by many as unrealistic for real work but with a bit of application can be a most useful bit of kit. I'm particularly fond of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, predominantly for its seamless capacity to run OSX but also for its amazing portability, price and robust build quality. My latest (No.4) is spec'd out with a 16GB SSD, 2GB DDR & integral 3G/HDSPA card (which I'm hoping will come in handy for Berlin this summer). This weekend I road tested it for AWS admin, with surprising results thanks to a realisation from an under used OSX utility.

18 Apr 2012

The usefulness of EC2 user-data scripts

One of the most under rated features of the AWS platform have to be user-data scripts. They allow you to easily preconfigure EC2 Linux instances at launch via a script (or selection of scripts) so they're ready roll complete with all your build specifics and/or applications from first boot. Very useful, especially for anyone who's had experience of chef and puppet. You'll find the entry field at stage two of the instance launch process (Fig:1).

16 Apr 2012

Server 8 and the downward slide of IIS

Microsoft Windows Server 8 (BETA) is out then, resplendent with controversial Metro GUI and a raft of new features covering (mostly) enhanced virtualisation and storage. I've worked with MS Server throughout my IT career, and although my core business focus these days is for Linux it's still a feature of the Cirronix support umbrella, and one which although I'm quite happy with is becoming somewhat of a niche request. Say what? I hear you say, Microsoft? A niche product? Surely there must be some mistake? Well.....

17 Mar 2012

Easy Sync for IIS7 - No Web Farm required

In a previous post I detailed procedure for installing the Microsoft Web Farm Framework to facilitate IIS load balancing and replicated content sync for Server 2008 EC2 instances in AWS, a system that in theory sounds ideal but in practice isn't that reliable (or even possible) if you have existing live sites, however there is a much simpler and cleaner way to achieve IIS replicated goodness using a bit of the old and a bit of the new. I use Robocopy for content sync combined with IIS7 shared config (for shared config), here's how......

5 Feb 2012

Scalr - The Holy Grail of Auto-Scale

Cirronix use Amazon Web Services as core technology for all cloud solutions, for us it's the perfect platform offering robust cost efficiency with ease of administration and development flexibility. That said, it does have it's limits and auto-scaling from live instances is one of them. 
Scalr is an open source or hosted service which addresses this problem directly and delivers a resolution beautifully. Not only does it provide an answer to dynamic auto-scaling but provides a slick interface to an enhanced platform administration toolset, let's take a look at what's on offer.

29 Jan 2012

ZPanel on AWS EC2 - 2 : Route 53 DNS for eMail and Web

In Part 1 of this series we looked at installing ZPanel to an AWS EC2, a quick and easy process, however to 'go-live' with your new installation you'll need to let the internet know where your domain and website are, and where to send your eMails to (and from). You could manage your DNS through your domain registrar using their own namservers + related records config, or, you could use Amazons superb Route 53. I really like Route 53 and in this post I'll show you how to configure it, with tailored settings go get you up and running in quite literally, 1 minute.

24 Jan 2012

ZPanel 6 on AWS EC2 - 1 : Installation

This is a two-part post continuing along a hosting theme, today looking at ZPanel, why you should use it and how to install it on an AWS EC2 instance with linked Route53 DNS management.
We've previously looked at EHCP, discussed it's DNS inclusive feature set and highlighted its intuitive interface and ease of install, however if you're looking for complete resolution resilience, and even more polish, I think we might have just the thing. Read on....

3 Jan 2012

Mini Me - OSX on the Dell Mini 9

I wasn't going to write this post as there are plenty of others detailing the experience and procedure, however I'm so happy with the result I felt obliged to spread the love.

Basically (as many others have done) I've turned my Dell Mini into a pocket sized Apple OSX Netbook, and the results are quite surprising. So, here I'll provide an overview of the procedure I used with a few extra comments covering minor glitches I encountered and how to fix them.

1 Jan 2012

EHCP - Domain Creation and Management

The previous post gave a compared first look at EHCP, the install procedure and its admin GUI, here we'll go a step further into Domain creation and management.

EHCP offers a really nice 'Easy Add Domain' utility, which does exactly what it says. You simply type in a domain name and it populates a DNS template for you containing all required default records (NS, A, CNAME etc). Once done you can manage extra domain functionality or package installs via it's own admin panel.